Just after winning the 2015 election and becoming the majority party, which meant they didn’t need a coalition with the Lib Dems (who had been decimated anyway) the Tories announced that they would undertake a review and balancing of the electoral boundaries which would reduce the number of MPs to 600.
Given that it was the Tories saying this I expected neither balanced or fair and evidence since then has showed that my fears seem justified. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the Tories aren’t out to get us.
In a series of steps the Tories have clearly been trying to create a single party system that would keep them in power for the foreseeable future.
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”
I’ve seen a number of analyses of the proposed Tory manipulation of the electoral boundaries and the number of extra Tory MPs is generally around 20. That’s 20 more Tory MPs out of a smaller house.
In addition the reports are that the review will be based on the December 2015 census, remember that one, where hundreds of thousands of people including large numbers of students living away from home found themselves removed from the lists without being told.
That December 2015 census.
By basing any electoral boundary changes on that census the Tories would lock out hundreds of thousands or perhaps several million voters and make their votes all but meaningless due to the way that the first past the post system works.
How would they do this, well they have the previous census and the, ahem, amended census so they have a good idea where the Tory voters are and where the labour voters are. By moving the boundaries they can shuffle large numbers of Labour voters that no longer show on the electoral register into areas that already vote Labour, if the Tories know that an area has 10,000 registered voters and goes heavily Labour but after the 2015 census now only shows 5,000 voters they could include that entire area as part of an MPs domain that is already likely to vote labour. If at some later point all of those misplaced voters re-register, well it’s too late, they are now locked into that district until the next boundary review which could be 15-20 years away.
Under first past the post a region that provides 100,000 votes for Labour returns one MP, an area that votes 55,000 Tory and 45,000 returns one MP. So by moving enough possible Labour voters from contested areas into solid Labour areas they can create a number of seats completely Labour and a much larger number of majority Tory voting areas.
Number of votes don’t count, only that an electoral district has more votes for one party than another. Without proportional representation our system is very vulnerable to boundary manipulation and every party has dabbled in this but the current Tory government are likely to be the worst.
“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”
But this isn’t the only move the Tories have made to weaken every other political party. We have the parliamentary ‘Short Money’, a payment made to all parties in parliament who are not in government, to cover the costs of MPs offices and staff and to enable the parties to function as an effective opposition.
What Osborne is pushing through is a 19% cut in the Short Money, in terms of the overall UK budget the Short Money isn’t much, less than £10 million a year at present so about as much money as the big multinationals avoid in tax each half hour. But 19%, while hardly a drip in the swimming pool of the UKs budget is a big chunk out of the payments that opposition MPs use to run their offices.
Note that this isn’t expenses money, that’s a different scandal. This is a payment, by the Treasury, to help fund a viable opposition and prevent a monopoly of power in parliament.
Labour as the largest opposition party get the largest part of the Short Money, this cut would reduce the money they have to pay for MPs offices and official activities by over a million pounds, money that they will have to find from other sources OR they will have to cut back on official activities or close MPs offices.
Either way the Tories with a host of rich donors aren’t going to be affected whereas the opposition parties who tend to lack old school friends with multi million pound bank accounts will have to tighten their belts.
Now add the reports recently of Tory fraud with regard to how much they were spending bringing in senior figures to by elections and the general election, significantly exceeding spending limits in a number of places with hotel bills and the like. The by elections were over a year ago and so the statute of limitations has passed but the general election is still inside that one year window. Though if anyone believes there will be a serious investigation into Tory election fraud I have a bridge to sell you, nice view of the Thames.
What effect this had on the 2015 election is difficult to determine but it’s likely to have had some sort of effect, parachuting in Tory big names to get the voters out may have swung the numbers by a few thousand, problem is there were several Tory MPs who won by several thousand votes.
If these three are allowed to happen they will have a big impact on the 2020 elections, the electoral boundary change on its own will mean that Labour will find the system stacked against them before a single vote is cast and the Tories will have the election to lose. Cuts to funding and spending more than is allowed per district will add to an already unbalanced contest and make it far more likely we will return a Tory majority again and again.
Unfortunately we have enough people in the UK who fear a Labour government so much that they prepared to put up with a Tory one, despite the fact that most Tory voters are suffering along with the rest of us. By changing the electoral boundaries the Tories can ensure that roughly the same number of votes in 2020 will return them with a majority of 30 or so MPs and even if they lose a million voters due to Tory Austerity and cruelty they can still win a majority.
The clearest indicator of just how unbalanced the electoral boundary changes are will come when the total Tory vote is less than the total Labour vote but the Tories return more MPs. A crazy situation but that's first past the post when it’s been engineered to return a Tory government no matter what.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face.